Today’s devotional turned into a study of the Christian doctrine of predestination and election. The mystery of it began early. One example is Abraham, whom God called to a new life. Obviously, had God not called him, he would have remained a pagan living in an idolatrous land. Did God know this man would obey? Good question.
Other verses about God’s foreknowledge and predestination as related to human choice include these:
“This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23)“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)“What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened . . .” (Romans 11:7)“(God) predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:5)“In (Christ) we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will . . .” (Ephesians 1:11)“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ . . .” (1 Peter 1:1–2)
My study involved the history of what has been believed about God’s divine call and about how and why people are saved. Those who have studied and studied have varying opinions that can be summed up in three views. As I read it, I thought who am I to figure this out when great men of the faith could not, and could not agree?
Arminians believe that salvation or damnation is contingent on God foreseeing how each person would freely respond to the gospel. In other words, human decisions totally affect God’s decisions.
Luther and others believes God does the choosing, but avoids the question of why some people are left to perish. They simply avoid the issue. This position is sometimes called the “middle” view.
Calvinists take a stronger stand that God divinely decides everything. He does not merely foresee but foreordains who is elect and who is condemned. This does not depend on God’s foreknowledge of free human action or decision, but totally is up to God. A doctrinal emphasis is put on gratitude and praise, but the problems are strong. Why does God choose only some and reject others? Calvinists might say this is beyond us, so we should thank God for our election and not probe further. Yet this position affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility without explaining how they co-exist.
When put in these simplified statements, my question is this: which one most glorifies the Lord God Almighty? Like the ‘house hunters’ on some popular television shows, I can easily eliminate one of them. God is not glorified when we think we pull His strings. That is, my will and decisions are not sovereign. If they had been, I would never have ‘chosen’ Jesus Christ over my own desire to do my own thing. Aside from my experience, I cannot believe the Arminian interpretation because it does not line up with many verses that say by grace God chooses His people.
As for the other two, I cannot avoid the issues raised by Calvinism and stand in the middle. I cannot say that God chooses capriciously and must admit that I don’t know why He does what He does. I do believe He is wise, good, and merciful, and that none of us deserve or can earn His favor.
I also know that God desires a personal relationship with people. In our sinfulness, we want nothing to do with Him, yet He woos us in various ways. One writer calls Him the “Hound of heaven” who is relentless in that pursuit. I found a story that many Christian would agree is a good illustration of how God saved them:
A man told a group of people how God had sought him and found him, loved him, called him, saved him, delivered him, cleansed him, and healed him. It was a tremendous tribute to the glory of God.After he was finished speaking, another man took him aside and said, “You know, I appreciate all that you said about what God did for you, but you didn’t mention anything about your part in it. Salvation is really part us and part God, and you should have mentioned something about your part.”“Oh,” the man said, “I apologize. I’m sorry. I really should have mentioned that. My part was running away, and God’s part was running after me until he found me.”
Jesus, I know that You choose and saved me. I am content to not know the mystery of why and how some are saved and some are not. Human choice is involved, yet to what extent and how does that really matter? You declare that all who put their faith in You will be saved. I’m thankful that You brought me to that place. I’m praying that You will do the same in the lives of those who are not there yet.